July 23, 2018 – I ascended into our sweltering attic this weekend to look for a folder of carbon copies of letters I wrote in the 1960s.
The folder – if it still exists – holds copies of my missives home from RAF Stations Bentwaters/Woodbridge, England, where I was stationed from January 1965 to January 1968. I was a clerk typist for the chaplain’s office so it was easy enough to squeeze a carbon set behind the bond paper on which I typed my letters.
The letters were addressed to my parents, siblings, buddies, and girlfriends, and when I was 18 I thought they would provide a useful diary of my time in England. As it turned out, the letters also included adolescent drivel that varied in proportion to the person I was addressing. I left out a lot of my experiences when I wrote to my mother, lied to my buddies about sexual conquests that never happened, and exaggerated my attentions to girls I found attractive but would not see again for three years.
Years ago I decided it might be wiser to keep the letters hidden and I tossed them carelessly into some pile in the attic. But recently I started writing a memoir of my Air Force experience and I decided the letters – even if not entirely truthful – would be helpful reminders of times and dates of key events. When, for example, did I visit Framlingham Castle? Or the Taboo Club in Soho? Or what month did I share a room on the ferry from Hoek Von Holland to Harrich, England with beautiful Solfrid Kvarme but lay hopelessly sea sick on my bed as she glared at me with disappointed disgust?
I’m still looking for the folder of letters. But as I probed through the detritus of the attic I did find other discarded artifacts of the era. In one box, which disassembled itself because of the heat of many summers and dissolutely surrendered the papers it once protected, was a pile of yellowing papers I had collected over many years. The deteriorating bounty included brochures and clippings that held drawings and cartoons I had contributed over many years. The collapsing box was stuffed with brochures I had designed and illustrations I had drawn for publications I had known in my youth, including bulletins and pamphlets from my days at RAF Stations Bentwaters/Woodbridge, McConnell Air Force Base in Wichita, and Eastern Baptist College in St. Davids, Pa.
Many of the papers looked like they would crumble into dust if they weren’t rescued soon. I scooped them carefully into my arms and brought them downstairs to my office where a scanner sits on my desk.
And I started scanning while the artistic records of my youth yet survived. They are posted herein in chronological order.